Each week, host Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about the latest episode of Survivor: Edge of Extinction.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, we’ve been seeing “live” Tribals for a few seasons now, but nothing like this. There’s so much that happened here that I don’t even really know where to begin or end, so why don’t you just take us through your observations as all this insanity was happening around you.
JEFF PROBST: I can never sense when a Tribal is going to become “live.” It typically happens in an instant. In this case I think a lot of factors were in play. Julie was wearing down emotionally, mostly because she doesn’t like lying to others and she certainly doesn’t like others lying to her. And I think it’s pretty clear that she was the accelerant for Tribal taking a turn. But everybody is exhausted. So why her and not someone else? Let’s dig a little deeper, and I hope that what I’m about to write does not offend anyone. I hope my armchair psychological assessment is taken at face value because I only mean it as a way to contrast personality types.
If you contrast Julie and Aurora you get a very clear illustration of one reason Survivor is compelling and maybe some further insight into why a Tribal can suddenly go “live” when a moment earlier it seemed fine. Julie is a wife and a mom with kids. She is missing them. She is exhausted and wears her emotions on her sleeve. So she is not as stable as she was on day one. This isn’t a surprise to the other players, nor to Julie. It’s just part of her makeup. Aurora, on the other hand, comes from a very different world. She comes from the foster care system. She has been on her own most of her life. She is a very strong woman who by necessity has learned to rely on herself to get through most things in life. As a result, her emotions are not as easily visible because she can’t allow them to be. Nothing is going to break her.
So, a blindside that betrays Aurora is simply more information she can use to determine who to trust and who not to trust. But a blindside that betrays Julie is received differently and can be the tipping point that ignites a major turning point in her gameplay. That’s why Tribal is so unpredictable. It’s not apples for apples. And once Tribal turns, watch out. It’s crisis time, and now everybody is on high alert. You saw it unfold the same way I did: one player at a time.
First, Julia tries to cover with Wentworth assuring her that they’re “still good.” Then Devens reads into that statement and sees an opportunity to push the story in a new direction. Now here comes Aurora with her more measured approach trying to stabilize the conversation and stop the bleeding. But Devens, David and Wardog jump on it. Now Julia senses the story starting to slip away and she does her best to squelch it by laughing at the entire notion. “You’re such a passenger, Rick.”
Every player has their own approach to the game, and that approach traces back to how they behave in life and especially in crisis. And the reason a situation like this becomes so dangerous is that the moment any desperate player can create real uncertainty… there are other smart players who will use that uncertainty to create more opportunity. By this point Tribal was off and running, and Julie was drowning in a growing ocean of uncertainty. It was a master class in very good Survivor players seizing a moment to ensure that this tribal became very live, because they knew that within the chaos there was opportunity.
Who was the key cog in this vote to get Julia out? Was it Devens for bringing up the idea? The Wardog for aggressively pursuing Ron and Julie to make it happen? Or was it Julie that ultimately pulled the trigger by flat-out refusing to work with the Kama people that betrayed her at the last vote?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve watched that Tribal a few times, and I find something new every time. It’s like watching a social car crash in slow motion. You see every step as it unfolds, but you can’t really pinpoint which moment was the one that sealed the deal. I would guess that ultimately Julie had the say because the Lesu group knew she was the most emotional and the owner of the “live Tribal,” and in a case like that you just want to go with momentum and get to the vote as fast as you can.
As for Julia as a player, I think she was probably seen as a very big threat. She’s a very smart person with a sharp tongue, and that’s a dangerous combo. She can tie you up in circles if you get into an argument. The risk, however, is if that same sharp tongue angers the wrong person and Tribal goes live, you could be the one whose torch is snuffed.
One of my favorite scenes of the season was dinnertime back at camp before Tribal where you all just played the awkward silence for longer than I have ever seen before on this show. But while nothing was “happening” in that scene, I feel like in a weird way that spoke more about Survivor than a hundred different strategy sessions. How much of this game is just picking up on body language clues and changes in mood?
It’s huge. Players talk about it all the time. They notice when the conversation they’re used to having with a player suddenly changes. Or when a player returns to camp and suddenly things get quiet. Body language is a big one, as some people truly struggle with deception and they give it away. And that one great intangible… energy. It’s that feeling when you are talking to someone and you just sense something is off. You can’t pinpoint it, but you just know. You are certain: Something is different.
But without evidence you often fool yourself into believing that you’re just “overthinking it” and that “everything is fine.” I think that’s ultimately what players mean when they refer to their gut. Remember mood rings? They were supposed to tell you your mood by changing color. They were just a funny gimmick, but it’s the same idea: A change in your body chemistry is alerting you that something is wrong. Great players have a better sense of these types of things.
Things are heating up and I’m not sure I know where anyone stands. What can you tell us about next week?
Two people going home. Uh-oh.
Also make sure to read our full recap as well our gallery of contestants talking about the biggest obstacles they have had to overcome. Plus, for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.